If you ever wonder what the moon looks like up close, one of the best places to get an idea is the Valley of the Moon in Bolivia. The valley, which is called Valle de la Luna in Spanish, is indeed a spectacular site. Here, you will be in great awe at the giant sharp monoliths trying to reach out and touch the sky.
It is hard to believe that these series of stalagmites are just what is left of a mountain of sandstone and clay that was torn down little by little by rain and strong winds over a multitude of years. The valley’s lunar landscape has been formed through the erosion of the soft soil. Father Time and Mother Nature are the true sculptures of the Valley of the Moon, and visitors who come here are fortunate to see today.
Although it is named a valley, the site itself is technically not a valley but a congregation of canyons and huge spires. One thing that really makes such spires stand out is their variation in color. Some of them exhibit a reddish hue, while others are dark purple and beige. This color difference is scientifically attributed to the variance of minerals present in the mountains that once stood in this site.
You can find this incredibly unique valley just 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) southwest of the main city of La Paz. The nearest town to it is called Mallasa. You can reach the site by taking a taxi or a bus. There are two available hiking trails that circles around the valley and lead you to various viewpoints. The longer of the two trails takes about 45 minutes to complete. The shorter one only takes about 15 minutes. Most visitors agree that the best viewpoint is the Devil’s Point, located at the end of the longest track. At the entrance of the valley, there is a tourist information center which offers maps of the trails.
While it is truly an amazing experience to trek around the Valley of the Moon, there are a few things to keep in mind. The designated trails, while clearly marked, are usually narrow, uneven and have sharp pointed edges. So make sure that you are wearing sturdy footwear if you intend to walk around a lot. You also have to take extra care and vigilance where to step as the soil is soft enough to break away easily. It is usually warm and sunny around the area, so don’t forget bring your chosen sun protection and plenty of water, especially if you wish to tackle all trails around the site.
The highlight of visiting the valley is the landscape itself. Due to its arid terrain, there is not much wildlife inhabiting the area. But what you should still watch for is the strange animal named viscacha, which is a kind of lizard that looks like a hybrid of a rabbit and fox. Valley of the Moon is also home to some cacti variance like hallucinogenic Choma. As you go through your tour, you will discover the different prominent rock formations, which were given names based on the shapes they resemble. Examples include el Sombrero de la Dama (lady hat) and la Madre Luna (mother moon).
It is possible to stay overnight near the site, but the only option is camping at a designated area along the main road. Although not a five-star hotel, the site is equipped with toilets, showers, outdoor kitchen; not to mention you get incredible views of the valley from here!
You can view a video here!